Saturday, November 21, 2009
What a funny little parenting trajectory I have been on. Getting pregnant as a twenty-something career women, I did everything I thought I was supposed to. Attended all my appointments with my GP, switched to OB-GYN visits in the seventh month, bought everything the baby magazines told me I needed, had a lousy hospital birth experience, and took home my struggling-to-nurse newborn son 36 hours after he was born. I planned to care for him "by the book", and expected to be pretty much like the other young parents I knew, with the exception, of course, that my child would be just a little smarter, better adjusted and more well-behaved then their children were. I never anticipated morphing into the mother I am today.
So, to borrow a line from Talking Heads, well, how did I get here? And I think it all started when my son was about 2 months old, and decided sleep is for the weak. (Thanks to amberjee at
http://sleepisfortheweak.wordpress.com/ for bringing humour to this most debilitating of parenting dilemmas). At first, I thought it would pass. It didn't. Then, we tried on that much debated practice of having him "cry it out". And when I said we tried, I mean, for about 5 minutes one desperate night. I can't even pretend we had the stomach for it.
But, I believe in research, right? I figured the answer to this problem is in a book somewhere. Or on the Internet. And I, resident research queen, will find it. What I was really looking for was something to convince me that leaving him to "cry-it-out" was really the best for everyone concerned. If I could just find an argument convincing enough to quell my guilt, I could silence my inner sobbing mama, and muscle through it. But I never found that book or article. Instead, I found increasingly convincing books and articles outlining why I shouldn't do it. Pleading with me, even. Begging me to listen to that inner mama, for my child's sake. And that, folks, was the beginning of my descent into granola land.
The first book I read on the subject was The Baby Sleep Book by Dr. William Sears. Prior to picking up the pink book with the adorable sleeping infant on the cover (the infant I wanted to have living in my house), I had never even heard of the infamous Dr. Sears. Now I could probably tell you everything you never wanted to know about him. Other sleep books that pulled me further into the land of gentle parenting were The No-cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley, and Sleepless in America by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.
And I didn't stop with sleep books. I couldn't! Because these books told me more than how to cope with disturbed sleep. They told me that they believed in my ability to parent. That there was something inside a parent that was superior to empirical research. That it was okay to make my choices from the heart.
For someone who works in a VERY research-based, empirical field, reading these books felt like indulgence in contraband. It was like flirting with the enemy, and I couldn't get enough. So I read more titles from Pantley, Kurcinka and Sears. I added in titles published by La Leche League, and started attending local meetings, where I found more books to read. I read Good Nights by Dr. Jay Gordon, and lost my guilt over co-sleeping. I read The Natural Baby by Janet Balaskas, which helped to normalize breastfeeding, night waking, baby wearing, and responsive parenting. And when I read Lu Hannessian's Let the Baby Drive, the validation high lasted for weeks.
It has not been a perfectly smooth ride, mind you. In my previous post, Fear of a unique path, I described my difficulties in knowing how far to walk along this road, how to decide what is me, and what is just conforming to the alternative crowd. I still do not buy organic, my son is vaccinated, we have plastic toys. But I am much further from the mainstream then I would have guessed 2 years ago. We are still nursing, we cloth diaper, we co-sleep on and off... And it all started with sleepless nights, and the local library. Be careful what you read, my friends. Ideas are powerful things.